Regulatory developments on Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS)
Imo aims to integrate new and advancing technologies in its regulatory framework – balancing the benefits derived from new and advancing technologies against safety and security concerns, the impact on the environment and on the international trade facilitation, the potential costs to the industry, and their impact on personnel, both onboard and ashore. Imo wants to ensure that the regulatory framework for MASS keeps pace with technological developments that are rapidly evolving.
Imo has recently completed a regulatory scoping exercise on MASS that was designed to assess existing IMO instrument to see how they might apply to ships with varying degree of automation. The regulatory scoping exercise (RSE) for safety treaties was finalized at the 103rd Session pf the MSC in May 2021.
The list of the treaties to be covered in the MSC’s scoping exercise for MASS includes:
- safety and maritime security (SOLAS);
- collision regulations (COLREG);
- loading and stability (Load Lines);
- training of seafarers and fishers (STCW, STCW-F);
- search and rescue (SAR);
- tonnage measurement (Tonnage Convention); Safe Containers (CSC); and
- special trade passenger ship instruments (SPACE STP, STP).
The methodology for the scoping exercise:
For each instrument related to maritime safety and security, and to liability and compensation, and for each degree of autonomy, provisions were be identified which:
- apply to MASS and prevent MASS operations; or
- apply to MASS and do not prevent MASS operations and require no actions; or
- apply to MASS and do not prevent MASS operations but may need to be amended or clarified, and/or may contain gaps; or
- have no application to MASS operations.
The degrees of autonomy identified for the purpose of the scoping exercise were:
- Degree one: Ship with automated processes and decision support: Seafarers are on board to operate and control shipboard systems and functions. Some operations may be automated and at times be unsupervised but with seafarers on board ready to take control.
- Degree two: Remotely controlled ship with seafarers on board: The ship is controlled and operated from another location. Seafarers are available on board to take control and to operate the shipboard systems and functions.
- Degree three: Remotely controlled ship without seafarers on board: The ship is controlled and operated from another location. There are no seafarers on board.
- Degree four: Fully autonomous ship: The operating system of the ship is able to make decisions and determine actions by itself.
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